650b, bicycles, bikes, Boulder Bicycles, Cycles Toussaint, cycling, FreeRange Cycles, Grand Randonneur, Grant Petersen, low-trail, Mike Kone, randonneur, rivendell, Seattle, Soma, Velo Routier
Having the good fortune to live and ride in Seattle near good local bike shops has its blessings. I stopped in FreeRange Cycles on Tuesday and tried out a couple of new rides that sport a low trail geometry with a bent towards the randonneuring crowd (me). Both are a bit of a departure for me in that they are TIG welded steel frames.
The Soma Grand Randonneur was recently shipped, and is a very compelling deal. It is a $500 frame/fork combo that was designed by Mike Kone of Boulder Bicycle and Rene Herse fame. Note: Soma is doing some great combo design deals lately. First Grant Petersen‘s design on the San Marcos, and now a low-trail guru’s take on a commodity frame. You’d be hard pressed to not want both!
The bike I rode is a 55cm (small for me) with a large porteur rack on the front. Good to add some weight and see how it feels with a bit of front load. In my short ride, I felt immediately at home on the bike, and really felt some of the benefits of the different front-end geometry. It was quick handling, but forgiving – not twitchy. As I slowed to a stop, I noticed there was none of the flopping I have on my higher trail bikes if I let go of the handlebars. OK – that’s kind of nice. But the thing I liked more is that on a slow climb, I didn’t have the bars slightly twisting back and forth with my pedal strokes. It tracked well at low speeds. Hmmm – I may like this sort of thing.
On turns, at medium and higher speeds, there was no uncertainty of where I was going. Perhaps it didn’t feel like it was “on rails” like my Rivendells, but there was no bad effects I could ascertain. As for riding no-handed, it was about like my Miyata. Not great, but doable, and I wonder if it’s not due to the high saddle, low bars on this slightly too small frame for me.
On to the other bike – a new effort out of Canada. Cycles Toussaint is a Calgary company recently formed (2012) with two bike models. The version I rode was a demo Velo Routier sent to Kathleen at FreeRange to see if there is interest in the area. It’s a smart-looking white frame that was nicely built up in a traditional rando effort. It was slightly bigger at 57cm, so more in line with my size (I would probably go with a 59-60cm frame).
The only real difference in ride character this bike had in comparison with the Soma GR is that it tracked better for me no-handed. I won’t guess why other than perhaps the lack of a rack, the size being more in line with what I normally ride, or some build difference (tires?). Other than that, the bike handled much like the Soma. Deliberate, comfortable, and non-eventful. At $500, this bike is at the same price point, and it may come down to looks for you if you are in the market. To my eye, the Toussaint is prettier, and I liked the additional seat-stay peg so you can choose to mount a top-tube frame pump, or a smaller seat-stay pump. Overkill? Maybe, but I like pump-pegs – call me nuts…
- Low 30mm trail
- Integrated fender mounts
- Threaded 1″ steerer tube for threaded headset (yeah!)
- Room for fenders and 42mm tires
- Tubing – both are double-butted with .8/.5/.8 on small sizes, and .9/.6/.9 on larger frames
- Tube diameters – thinner seat-stays on the Toussaint
- Fork bend – prettier curve on the Toussaint
- Bottle bosses – 2 on Toussaint, 3 on Soma
- Front rack mounts – Soma has rack and low-rider mounts, Toussaint has rack mounts
- Sizes – Toussaint comes in 4 sizes – 51-60cm, Soma fits more riders with 6 sizes from 49.5-65cm
- Rear hub spacing – 130mm for Toussaint, and 132.5 for Soma
Pingback: Cycles Toussaint | Cycle Seattle
Ryan Surface said:
I will throw another in the mix for you – the Velo Orange Rando. Ok this is shameless shelf promotion as I have a newly built up one and am selling it, Mine is a 59 cm and if you are interested in riding a 3rd Rando option feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. VO details here http://velo-orange.blogspot.com/2010/02/rando-frames-are-here.html.
John Bokman said:
I recently purchased an American-made (Portland, OR, where I live) low-trail Rando bike: Ocean Air Rambler.
I also own a 2009 Rivendell Sam Hillborne. I like them both quite a bit!
I got the Rambler because I had an itch I just had to scratch: namely the low-trail bike. I have not been disappointed. However, they are not as different as I thought they might be.
The biggest difference I notice is in descending. The Rambler needs to be steered with the hips; Riv needs to be told what to do, how to behave. The Rivendell is going somewhere, and needs to be listened to, and counter-steered.
For me, they handle about the same no-handed. Maybe the Riv is a better ride in this regard. Less attention is needed at low speeds.
But on the descents, the Rambler is aggressive, eager to do more. On climbs, the Rambler just pushes on up.
They’re both fun, each in their own ways.
I realize the Rambler is three times as expensive as the bikes you listed in this post, but it’s an American-made, TiG welded Steel farme with all sorts of bells and whistles. I believe it’s an exceptional value considering the sourcing and many frame attributes (internal routing for dyno lighting; fork-top braze-ons for additional rack mounts; chain-stay braze on for rear wheel removal; and etc. I encourage everyone to look at he Ocean Air Rambler!
The Rambler is a nice bike! I rode one a few weeks back. It was light and responsive, and with no weight in the front, dare I say a bit on the twitchy side for me. It wasn’t a good size for me, but it definitely tracked well. I’d like to try it with a front rack and a rando bag at some point…